For birds, there’s no taste like home

Written by on April 17, 2013 in Featured, Neighborhood News - No comments

Daniel Torono and Kevin Bulnes plant native shrubs. Their fruit will feed birds and insects. - Photo credit: Erin Reed

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PPAC habitat volunteers remove turf grass in preparation to plant natives that will feed migrating birds. They also uncovered the overgrown, historic brick path, which will remain intact. - Photo credit: Susie Creamer

On Saturday, April 20, the Patterson Park Audubon Center will be teaching residents gardening techniques to enhance the wildlife native to Baltimore and the surrounding area.
Erin Reed of PPAC stopped by the Butchers Hill Association meeting about two weeks ago to give residents a preview of the event.

“This is how to transform your urban dwelling into a native wildlife paradise,” Reed said. “Hopefully we can think of our home, our spaces, as places we can share with biodiversity.”

Reed noted that even a small amount of outdoor space—a roof top deck, a smaller deck, or even planters—could contribute to the native habitat.

“Anyone can make a really significant contribution if you landscape in a way that shares with biodiversity,” she said.

What does that mean?

Reed gave the example of a monarch butterfly. Before becoming a butterfly, the organism lives life in the larval stage, as a caterpillar. That caterpillar has a very specific diet, Reed noted, eating only milkweed.

“A lot of insects are like the monarch butterfly,” she explained, noting that the key is finding out the specific plants that native insects eat. “They don’t just see green as a buffet.”

Who cares about insects?

“If you love birds, you should understand that 96 percent of land-living bird species eat insects at some point in their life,” Reed said, adding that a colleague’s research had found that a mother chickadee and hatchlings eat 4,800 caterpillars over 16 days. “We need those caterpillars!” she said.

How to get started?

“Find out which types of insects live around here, and then look up their larval host plant,” Reed said, adding that compared to their more exotic counterparts, native plants are generally lower-maintenance, requiring less watering, less weeding, and fewer fertilizers and pesticides.

So I have to cut down my $200 Japanese maple?

“It’s like replacing your wardrobe from one season to the next,” said Reed. “You’re not going to throw out all your old clothes.”

Where can native plants be purchased?

“I will say that it’s never a bad idea to go to the big box store and ask for native plants,” said Reed. “If enough people ask, they might get it in their heads to provide them.”

Until then, some local nurseries, such as Pinehurst Landscape Company, carry native plants, she said.

The Patterson Park Audubon Center will be holding its Wildlife Gardening Workshop for adults—focusing on habitat gardens—on Saturday, April 20, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 a.m., at the Southeast Anchor Library, 3601 Eastern Ave.

Contact or call 410-558-2473 to register in advance.

by Erik Zygmont

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